thomas.wieberneit@aheadcrm.co.nz
The ABC of Zoho AI

The ABC of Zoho AI

During ZohoDay24, Zoho amongst other topics, gave some insight into how the company looks at AI. Raju Vegesna presented Zoho’s AI vision and progress. Additionally, I had the opportunity for a one on one with Zoho’s director of AI research, Ramprakash (Ram) Ramamoorthy. If you want to listen and watch the interview, you can do this here. Both represented a vision that is refreshingly differentiated from the current hype with everyone and their dog talking like large language models, LLMs, are the everything one needs. Well, let me tell you: They aren’t. But let me come to this point later. In addition to not every language model being created equal, and typical for a hype, there is still too much talk about the technology itself, whereas in the words of Raju and Ram the best AI implementation is “when the customer doesn’t know they are using AI but finds value in the output”. This resonates very well with me, as one of my beliefs is that the customer shouldn’t care about the technology that is used to achieve the desired outcome, within some constraints like legality, ethics, and efficiency, of course. Zoho is a technology vendor with a focus on business applications. So, Zoho quite quickly realized that consumer type AI that e.g., helps with spell checks, or nowadays research, suffers from two fundamental flaws: lacking privacy/security and accuracy when it comes to business applications. Both violate some of Zoho’s core tenets, namely their pursue of privacy and business applications that offer a lot of value to the customer. Take the example of improving one’s writing – for some...
How to play the long game Zoho style

How to play the long game Zoho style

The news On February 7 and 8 2024, Zoho held its annual ZohoDay conference, along with a pre-conference get together and an optional visit to SpacX’s not-too-far-away Starbase. Our guide, who went by Chief, and is probably best described as a SpaceX-paparazzi was full of facts and anecdotes, which made the visit very interesting although we couldn’t enter Starbase itself. The event was jam-packed with 125 analysts, 17 customer speakers, and of course Zoho staff for us analysts to talk to. This was a chance we took up eagerly. This time, the event took place in MacAllen, TX, instead of Austin, TX. The reason behind this is once more Zoho’s ruralization strategy, transnational localism. Which gives also one of the main themes of the event. It was more about understanding Zoho than about individual products, although Zoho disclosed some roadmaps. More about understanding Zoho in a second. The second main theme was customer success and testimonials. Instead of bombarding us with presentations ad infinitum, Sandy Lo and her team did an amazing job of organizing a series of panels with customers talking about – and being questioned about – their use of Zoho products. And questioned they were. In what cannot be taken for granted, they gave very candid answers, making a learning opportunity out of the event. The third main theme was the “state of the business” session, as usual presented by Zoho’s Chief Strategy Officer Vijay Sundaram. As Zoho is a privately held business, this information is largely under NDA. So, suffice it to say that Zoho is continuously growing across a variety of metrics including users,...
SAP is dead – long live SAP

SAP is dead – long live SAP

The News On January 23, 2024, SAP announced the results of its Q4 and fiscal year 2023, along with an update of the company’s 2025 ambition. The ambition includes a shift of focus on key strategic growth areas and a restructuring program. This program will cost around 2.2 billion dollar and affect about 8,000 employees. Notably, SAP does not look at lay-offs but a “voluntary leave program and internal re-skilling investments”. No details are known yet. One of the core investment areas going forward will be Business AI; in addition, the company will strive to capture organizational synergies, leverage AI-driven efficiencies and prepare the company for the expected growth. Looking at the numbers, SAP had a very successful year, meeting or exceeding the outlook metrics set and communicated for 2023.  SAP key financial results FY 2023; source SAP According to CEO Christian Klein, the “current cloud backlog increased by 27 percent to reach an all-time high” growth. This number and the cloud revenue are particularly driven by S/4HANA growth. In addition, SAP communicated a bold outlook with a CAGR of 25 percent plus through 2025 and beyond. Wall Street was excited. The Bigger Picture AI is the new cloud, currently the biggest thing since the invention of sliced bread. The industry is at the peak of an AI hype cycle. So far, we have seen a lot of low-hanging fruit being showcased while being promised an age of AI that “changes everything”.  According to the recently published results of the PWC annual global CEO surveyhttps://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/ceo-survey.html, around two thirds of CEOs believe that the use of generative AI will improve their company’s products...
The Generative AI Game of Thrones – Is OpenAI toast?

The Generative AI Game of Thrones – Is OpenAI toast?

The News This has been an exciting weekend for the generative AI industry. On Friday November 17, OpenAI announced that the company fired its figurehead CEO Sam Altmann and appointed Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati as interims CEO in a surprise move. The press release states that Altmann “was not consistently candid in his communications with the board.” Surprised was apparently not only Sam Altmann, but also the till then chairman of the board Greg Brockman who first stepped down from this position and subsequently quit OpenAI. Investors, notably Microsoft, found themselves blindsided, too – or flat footed depending on the individual point of view. Satya Nadella was compelled to state that Microsoft stays committed to the partnership with OpenAI in a blog post that got updated on November 19, 11:55 pm. All hell broke loose. Microsoft shares took a significant hit. A number of additional senior OpenAI personnel quit. Both, Altman and Brockman, voiced the idea of founding another startup together. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella flew to San Francisco to negotiate a reinstatement of Altmann. It initially seemed that this would be going to happen, along with the complete board stepping down and being replaced by Silicon Valley tech executives. Apparently, this did not work out. The result is that Altmann, Brockman, and some other former senior OpenAI staff are now Microsoft employees, with Altmann becoming the CEO of a new advanced AI research unit. Also on Sunday, Emmett Shear, former CEO of Twitch, was appointed new interims CEO at OpenAI. Meanwhile, more than 500 of OpenAI’s employees, including former interims CEO Murati threatened to quit OpenAI and join Altmann at Microsoft, which apparently...
Relevance, reliability, responsibility are key for AI – the SAP way

Relevance, reliability, responsibility are key for AI – the SAP way

The News A lot is going on in the SAPverse during October and the early days of November 2023. First, SAP conducted its CXLive event with CX-related announcements, then the company reported good Q3/2023 figures, a new version of its CX software that includes new generative AI capabilities got released and lastly, it executed its SAP TechEd event with a good number of AI-, BTP-, and ERP related announcements. As this is quite a lot, I covered the CX world in a previous post and will cover the TechEd related news in this post. So, what is new at SAP TechEd? For one, it is enough to fill a 17-page pre-event news guide that SAP sent out. SAP certainly is able to stack up the news for major events. I took the liberty to ask ChatGPT for a summary of the document, which I slightly edited afterwards. Here we are: AI and Development Environments: SAP introduces SAP Build Code with generative AI, improving application development and testing, while new AI capabilities are integrated across SAP’s ecosystem to drive automation. Business Technology Platform (BTP): BTP is augmented with new guides for application deployment and makes the SAP Cloud SDK for Java open source. A new vector capability for managing unstructured data via high-dimensional vectors is announced as part of SAP HANA, enhancing developer productivity, and allowing for Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) that combines large language models with business data. SAP Graph is generally available, and now extends API management to offer a unified API for streamlined access to enterprise data, boosting productivity and integration efforts. Cloud ERP: SAP introduces new...